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What you need to know about volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

In the age of easy access to information we are increasingly becoming aware of what could impact our lives both positively and negatively. However, with so much misinformation out there we are left feeling overwhelmed and in some cases frightened for our own health and safety. A great example of this is Volatile Organic Compounds. Previously only a minor percentage of us would have even heard the term VOCs, now a huge number of the population are hearing the phrase and when it is often used in the same sentence as “cancer causing gasses”, inevitably one should investigate further. In today’s blog I will cover VOCs from a very high level and provide all the information you need to know in order to be able to make an informed decision when purchasing any items for your home or commercial spaces.

What are VOCs

The US Environmental Protection Agency defines VOCs as “emitted gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects” (1). They are organic chemical compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature. Previous studies have disclosed that VOCs may increase the risk of irritation, allergic sensitisation, acute and chronic respiratory diseases, lung function damage and gene mutation (2). There are also strong correlations between VOCs emissions and brain cancer, nervous system issues, endocrine system, skin disease. If that was not enough to encourage rigorous research it is also known that Benzene, the main component of VOCs increases the risk of leukemia, skin cancer and other tumors, birth defects and neurocognitive impairment (3). But let’s not start worrying yet! Read on to find out more on VOCs and how you can keep yourself, family and friends safe.

How can you avoid VOCs?

In one word, you can’t. VOCs can be found in a vast amount of liquids and solids ranging from gasoline to furniture. As they are widely used at home and work, exposure to airborne VOCs is unavoidable. However, not all VOCs are detrimental to your health and for those that are not safe, there are specific limits that if we ensure are met then we can remain safe. Any reputable manufacturer will have test certificates showing that their products fall within the safe ranges of VOCs emissions. To better this, there are some manufacturers that ensure certain chemicals are not used in the manufacturing process to guarantee ZERO VOCs are emitted from their products. Alternatively, they will ensure that specific VOCs that are harmful are not emitted from their products – such as Formaldehyde – a cancer causing VOC. At Creative Wrap we only work with reputable brands and manufacturers with all of our materials being certified ZERO VOC, or ZERO formaldehyde with test results from international laboratories to provide upon request at any time. With that said, although we cannot avoid VOCs we can avoid the known VOCs that are harmful. When purchasing any products, you should ask the supplier for the appropriate test results and certificates. If the supplier is unable to provide you with such documentation, then this should immediately ring alarm bells and I would recommend finding another supplier that can provide such documents.  

  1. What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)? | US EPA
  2. Global Research Trends in Health Effects of Volatile Organic Compounds during the Last 16 Years: A Bibliometric Analysis – Aerosol and Air Quality Research (
  3. Hua, X., Wu, Y.J., Zhang, X., Cheng, S., Wang, X., Chu, J. and Huang, Q. (2018). Analysis on ambient volatile organic compounds and their human gene targets. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 18: 2654–2665.